SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control released new data about drug overdose deaths in 2021 on Friday.

Dr. Brannon Traxler, the public health director, said the data showed an alarming trend in drug overdose deaths.

“Unfortunately, the 2021 data trend for South Carolina matches that of the rest of the country: a continued significant increase in drug overdose deaths,” said Dr. Traxler.

In 2021, DHEC reported there were 2,168 drug overdose deaths compared to 1,734 drug overdose deaths in 2020. It’s a more than 25 percent increase.

“Opioids continue to be the primary cause of overdose deaths in recent deaths,” said Traxler.

Dr. Traxler said fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, was involved in more two-thirds of opioid related overdose deaths in 20-21. She said fentanyl is strong and addictive.

“It is roughly 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine,” said Traxler.

DHEC reported there were 153 drug overdose deaths in Spartanburg County in 2021. The County experienced a more than 35 percent increase in these types of deaths compared to 2020.

“Fentanyl is the worst problem we’ve got today,” said coroner Rusty Clevenger. “Fentanyl has far overtaken any of the other opioids that we’re seeing.”

Clevenger also said fentanyl is commonly laced into other drugs, without users knowing it, which he said can have a bad outcome.

“What most people used to deem ‘safe’ if they were going to abuse drugs, or prescription drugs, is no longer safe,” said Clevenger.

Dr. Traxler said help and resources are available statewide.

“The best way that we can stop this upward trend in overdose and in drug overdose deaths is to make sure that people struggling with substance use disorder get connected to the help that they need and deserve,” said Traxler.

She said treatment and prevention can help decrease drug overdose deaths.

“We just need to encourage the people in our lives who are dealing with substance misuse to reach out and take those first steps in connecting with a trained professional who can help to treat their addiction,” said Traxler.

Dr. Traxler also said nine years ago, in 2012, the state reported fewer than 600 drug overdose deaths.

DHEC said people can find naloxone, an overdose reversal medication, for free at many places across the state. People can search for naloxone distributors in their area.

The South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse services also offers information about treatment and resources online or by calling 803-896-5555.

People can also call the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP. It’s free and confidential.